How Two Teens Are Using Tennis to Help Their Community

For many people exercising is not at the top of their “most favorite things to do” list. Some say it’s too hard or it’s not for them, while others say they just don’t have the time. Daniel Liu and Calvin Yu are trying to change this through the sport of tennis. Both varsity tennis players and this week’s grant winners, Liu and Yu founded a youth tennis club in their Tongan community in Salt Lake City where they give free tennis lessons. In a city where obesity levels in young people are higher than the state of Utah as a whole, this duo will also host healthy lifestyle conferences led by professionals and college professors. Who/what inspired you to take action around this issue?

Daniel Liu and Calvin Yu: We are both varsity tennis players and we love the sport of tennis. We [wanted to use this passion] to give back to the community. According to the Utah Department of Health, Tongan youth are 6 times more likely to be overweight than Utah youth in general. We thought it would be incredible if we could use our talent in tennis to help increase physical activity.

DS: What makes your project unique?

DL and CY: The uniqueness of our project comes from the Tongan culture. In their culture, they believe that big is beautiful. A woman's size 18 is skinny, while a woman's size 33 defines huge. This cultural [norm] is especially endangering to their health. People who are overweight may suffer from many diseases. By implementing a free tennis club, the first of its kind, we are taking a stand against obesity in Tongan youth by using a sport we both love and enjoy. We will truly make an impact with the money we have received, the effects of which will be seen through hard work and dedication from the Tongan children, as well as ourselves.

DS: What is one moment that stands out where you knew you were making a difference?

DL: The moment I knew I had made a difference is when I am tutoring young kids at a math club we organized at the library. The look on the children's faces and the enthusiasm at which they do the problems that I gave them was enough to see that I had motivated them and taught them that math can be fun.

CY: I knew I made a difference when I made Christmas cards and donated lotion to elderly patients at a retirement home. Even though the cards and gifts may not seem like much, it shows the willingness of our hearts to give, and to do good to others. They were very happy and felt much appreciated, which taught me to realize that all of us can make a difference, and that we should take action now.

DS: How is this grant money going to help you expand your project?

DL and CY: Tennis is a very expensive sport. The price and expense alone can deter many young children from participating. Tennis shoes wear out regularly, balls need to be replaced after a few months, tennis rackets are expensive, racket strings break and need to be replaced. Using the grant money we can provide these Tongan youth with starting equipment to promote overall physical health in the community.

DS: If you could have one superpower what would it be?

DL: I would love the superpower of changing and manipulating time. I would be able to go back and fix mistakes that I made or go into the future to see the technological advances the world will contain. Along with control of time comes immortality.

CY: The one superpower I would like to have would be the ability to predict the future. This would be very interesting because it would allow you to see where your life goes. Although some people may not like the idea of being able to see what will happen to them, I still believe that we are the ultimate masters of our future, and what we see is only a possibility of what might come. The knowing of what it is supposed to be is what entices me.

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